The Farrelly brothers examine the problem of the Seven Year Itch in "Hall Pass," their explosive new comedy.
Yes, it's a bowel reference.
"Hall Pass," a minor entry in the Farrelly oeuvre, is actually kind of tame.
The title refers to the one-week marriage furlough granted to a pair of suburban guys, and if you're expecting a barrage of Cialis and hooker-fueled sex bingeing, then you don't know the Farrellys.
Hose off the outer layer of bodily fluid that covers their comedy and you can usually find a movie about characters making defensible moral choices.
Ditto "Hall Pass." The Farrellys have come to praise fidelity, not to bury it, and could have called this "There's Something About Marriage."
Rick (Owen Wilson) loves his wife (Jenna Fischer) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) loves his (Christina Applegate), but they're dudes, and sometimes fail to keep their window-shopping within discreet limits.
Opening scenes show the men ogling other women - taking mental pictures of memorable female bodies, then sneaking out to replay these images in the privacy of their minivans.
It's all too much for the wives. They consult a friend/psychiatrist (Joy Behar) who advises them to give their husbands a week off from marriage, during which the men will discover their fantasies do not conform to reality.
As middle-aged comeback artists, neither of these guys is Roy Hobbs, or even Pete Incaviglia. Wilson pursues a waitress and runs afoul of a stalker, Sudeikis gets his butt kicked by a giant in a singles bar, and when somebody does get a girl back to a hotel room, there is a slapstick catastrophe (if you've ever wanted to see "sharting" on screen, this is your chance).
And the men aren't even aware of their greatest humiliation - as they strike out with women, their wives are being pursued by younger, fitter men.
"Hall Pass" has half a dozen big laughs, but has the throwback, going-through-the-motions feel of a twofer - something the Farrellys did for a studio in return for a chance to do something more challenging (they're about to embark on their dream project, a Three Stooges movie).
And the screenplay feels weirdly dated. With entire Internet subcultures devoted to providing anonymous outlets for the urges of married men (and women), it's strange that neither man thinks to consult Craigslist.
I don't know if the brothers, in their "Dumb and Dumber" prime, would have passed that up.
You wonder if their shart is still in it.